Officials try to soothe people but the population panics and everybody tries to escape from the danger zone. Among the refugees are Janna-Berta, aged 14, and her brother Uli, aged 7, who have lost their parents in the accident.
From the strength of her own grief and her desperation over how quickly people fall back into their everyday routines as soon as they have overcome their first panic, Janna-Berta develops an enormous will to resist “normalcy”.
Together, they flee by bicycle, because all the neighbours have already left. They meet chaos on the roads. Uli collapses with his bicycle and is run over by a car and killed. Janna-Berta, in shock, is taken to the station in Bad Hersfeld.
The story deals with a Chernobyl-type nuclear disaster happening on German soil. The heroine of the story is a fourteen-year-old girl who flees the contaminating cloud of radiation and experiences the ensuing breakdown of social order.
The story begins at school where Janna-Berta and the other students and teachers are alarmed of a nuclear accident in the vicinity. She returns home. Her younger brother Uli is alone because the parents are away and the grandparents on vacation.
She wants to return to her brother to bury him, is contaminated by radiation, and collapses.
She wakes up in a provisional hospital in Herleshausen, where she witnesses the hardships of others. She learns of the extent of the disaster from television and a nurse.
Her hair falls out. She makes a friend, Ayse, who later dies from radiation poisoning. Her aunt from Hamburg finds her and tells her that her parents and youngest brother, who had been with them, are dead. The news was intended to be kept secret.